In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, veteran antiwar demonstrator Tom Hayden speaks about the coming ‘storm of protest’ over the war in Afghanistan, growing disillusionment among the American left and the current re-evaluation — sometimes even from the right — of whether it is truly a ‘necessary war.’
SPIEGEL ONLINE: NATO air strikes called in by German commanders have
Tom Hayden: This incident will cause even
SPIEGEL ONLINE: As a veteran of the protests against the Vietnam War, you know a lot about public resistance, and now you’re promising a "storm of protest" against the
Hayden: The emotion that people are feeling is deep disappointment over the
SPIEGEL ONLINE: How many activists have you succeeded in mobilizing so far?
Hayden: Change moves slowly, except when it moves very rapidly. A few traditionalists will march on Predator (drone) launch sites or on the White House gates. But this is deeper; it’s about people expressing deep disillusionment after so much euphoria over Obama’s election a short time ago.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why is this disillusionment already so deep?
Hayden: Obama is caught between the social movements that made his presidency possible, including the anti-Iraq-war movement, and the Machiavellians, who are accustomed to running everything with little or no interference from the voters.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: You seem to be saying that Obama should be careful about taking the support of the left for granted. How are you planning to remind him of that?
Hayden: We are currently organizing in about 75 congressional districts, where people still hope the president listens. The dissent in 75 districts will turn into 150 and keep growing when next year’s request for war funding is presented in January. At this point, we have a unique situation in which huge numbers of people want Obama and the Democrats to succeed domestically — but will not be silent about the war.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: There is much more debate now about the objectives of the mission in
Hayden: It is growing on its own, partly as a continuation of the antiwar consciousness that arose during the (George W.) Bush years. American casualty rates are higher than ever because of the fighting in southern
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Still, the president might decide to send even more troops.
Hayden: The generals can’t stop themselves from wanting more troops. That is happening even though it is now clear that we are fighting for a kind of Frankenstein client in
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Prominent voices on the right, including columnist George Will, have now joined the chorus of people calling for a withdrawal. Does that help your protest movement?
Hayden: George Will seems to want the "white man’s burden" continued by men with darker skin. His proposal to keep killing from offshore makes no sense, but it begins to rattle the Republican bloc. More important is the fact that Richard Haass, the head of the Council on Foreign Relations, has
SPIEGEL ONLINE: It’s also the premise of President Obama, who uses that phrase often.
Hayden: I believe the "necessity" in question has been a political necessity among Democrats who fear being perceived as soft on terrorism.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: As a veteran of the anti-Vietnam War protests, do you see parallels to the current debate on
Hayden: In both cases, the
Interview conducted by Gregor Peter Schmitz